Government STEM agencies back industrial action

Bodies including Dstl and the Met Office are among the bodies to indicate most support for potential strikes

Credit: OpenClipart-Vectors/Pixabay

More areas of the civil service could see strikes next year after members of the Prospect union said they would be willing to take action over pay, staffing and redundancy terms.

Civil service members of the public sector professionals’ union have moved a step closer to walkouts after 93% of those who voted in an indicative ballot said they were ready to take industrial action.

Results were especially strong among a selection of government agencies operating in the fields of science and technology, including the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, the Met Office, the Intellectual Property Office, the Animal and Plant Health Agency, and the Health and Safety Executive.

The poll – the first of its kind since a pensions dispute in 2011 – follows the announcement of the first wave of strikes by PCS, the civil service’s biggest union, over the same issues. As many as 30,000 PCS members are now eligible to strike across 126 organisations, with the first wave this month including action at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, the Department for Work and Pensions and Border Force.

Prospect has written to Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin calling for an increase to pay guidance that has effectively capped rises for most officials at 3%. Leaders have also demanded that the government drops its plans to slash redundancy payments, which were unveiled earlier this year.

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Prospect will ballot its staff formally on industrial action early next year if its demands are not met.

The indicative ballot ran online from 8 November to 5 December and covered all of the union’s branches affected by Cabinet Office remit guidance published this summer that said departments and agencies could increase their overall paybill by 2% this year – topped up to 3% if they could argue it was needed for recruitment and retention.

In the “vast majority” of branches, more than 50% of eligible members voted – the threshold the union will need to meet in a formal ballot to take industrial action.

Four in five voting members backed strikes, and 93% said they would take action short of a strike.

Results were especially strong in the Animal and Plant Health Agency, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, the Health and Safety Executive, the Intellectual Property Office and the Met Office, the union said.

Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy said the results indicated the civil service workforce “has been pushed too far”.

“Industrial action is always a last resort, but staff have had enough of their hard work being taken for granted while their living standards have been under sustained attack for more than a decade,” he said. “Ministers need to act. They must lift the 3% cap on the offers employers are able to make to allow meaningful negotiations to take place, and they must abandon their plans to slash redundancy terms. If they don’t, we will be moving to formal ballots which our members have shown they will support. We are prepared to do whatever it takes to get a fair deal for our members.”

Sam Trendall

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